When my daughter was a freshman at a Catholic high school, she had to prepare a prayer for religion class but seemed to be having trouble getting started. As we talked about it, I realized that she felt she had to “compose” a prayer as though God could only be approached through formal language. But St. Ignatius taught that when we pray, it should “resemble one friend speaking to another”—and I told her this. She was able to move forward, knowing that God was approachable in this manner.
The notion of speaking to God as a friend has deep roots in the Jewish faith: only a friend could say some of the things said to God in the psalms and get away with it! Similarly, in the great film Fiddler on the Roof, the title character, Tevye, constantly talks to God as a friend, covering topics that include his horse, his wife, his five daughters, the political climate, his lack of income, and, of course, his faith. And yet the idea of talking to God as a friend is either surprising or foreign to many Catholics—even though Jesus says to us, “I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father” (John 15:15). That’s what intimate friends do: they share intimate thoughts and ideas.
Jesus reinforced this notion about the approachability of God when he taught his disciples to pray by addressing God as “Father.” As I mentioned earlier, the term that Jesus used—Abba—is the equivalent of “papa,” which is a term of endearment and affection used by children who feel close to their father. Our God is a relater: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are in such an intimate relationship, they are one. And as people made in God’s image, we are called, through discipleship, to intimacy with God and his children, our brothers and sisters. Can you relate?
Excerpt from Under the Influence of Jesus by Joe Paprocki